eOne tunes into podcasting with Antica

The global studio has brought the Antica Podcast Network under its banner, rebranding it Entertainment One.

The Antica Podcast Network is getting a rebrand.

In December 2016, the Toronto prodco launched The Antica Podcast Network in partnership with eOne. The eOne-owned, Antica-managed network, produces, distributes and promotes podcasts. Today, eOne officially brought the network under its banner, rebranding it Entertainment One’s podcast network, with Antica still at the helm.

Antica president and CEO Stuart Coxe sees the digital audio platform as a way to work with creators, develop show concepts – and build audiences – in a cost-effective way, without ever needing a greenlight from a broadcaster. “[Podcasts] allow us to start that process of putting shows into production,” he says.

In the span of a year, the network has grown to include more than 24 different shows, making it the largest independent network in Canada. Its most popular series include Sickboy, a show about what it’s like to live with a disease with more than 1.2 million downloads to date, (with single episodes often garnering 15,000 downloads in a month); and The Reality Check (more than 3.3 million downloads to date), where the hosts answer big questions like, “Do the British really have bad teeth?” and “Can science prove resting bitch face is a thing?”

The Entertainment One podcast network will continue to add new shows, including the just-announced No One Cares (Except For Me) with writer Anne T. Donahue, which will launch in the new year.

“We are able to offer scale and reach to all the current podcasters and any new podcasts that join,” says president of eOne Television in Canada, Jocelyn Hamilton. “Being under the eOne banner will only help with the growth and recognition of the network.”

Growing the brand is of course the goal, but where Antica and eOne see the real money-making opportunity is in developing podcasts for other formats.

With the relative ease of creating shows, some of which can be recorded in someone’s basement, podcasts are a great opportunity for content creators. They have low barriers to entry and lower risk, says Hamilton, adding the network allows the prodcos to find and support new, potentially undiscovered talent and content ideas that can span numerous platforms.

When a podcast joins the network, Antica and eOne co-own, co-create and share in revenue with the show creator.

“We work to grow revenue across the board, with everything from the podcasts themselves to books to tours and TV projects,” says Coxe.

He points to New York-based podcast network Gimlet Media to demonstrate the possibilities. In August of this year, Gimlet secured approximately $19 million in financing and has seen several of its shows licensed for TV. One of its scripted podcasts, Homecoming, recently received a two-season order from Amazon and will star Julia Roberts and Canada’s own Stephan James.

The Entertainment One network has signed deals for three of its podcasts to date. Two are currently in development for TV. The third is embarking on a 13-city live tour. Basement Revue is a live-show-turned-podcast hosted by Broken Social Scene’s Jason Collett, poet Damian Rogers and singer Torquil Campbell. In partnership with Indigenous record label and artist collective Revolutions Per Minute, the podcast launched The New Constellations tour in Saskatoon on Nov. 23. Antica is producing a digital doc series on the cross-Canada performances for a yet-to-be-confirmed broadcaster, with Tracey Deer set to direct. The prodco will also produce social videos from the tour, with a release slated for February 2018.

“I was working with Jason and Damian for about three years trying to find any outlet for this amazing show, which I thought was extraordinary. But the networks all viewed it as too niche,” he says. It wasn’t until they booked the tour that a broadcaster gained interest.

While Coxe would not divulge specifics about the podcasts in development for TV, he said pitching networks on series with proven, passionate talent already on board has been fruitful. “To have something that has organically been developed by talent [and] already has an audience that can be translated into television, is an easier process as a producer,” he says.

Coxe is the first to tell you that not every podcast deserves to be expanded. Some are just meant to be podcasts. For the network’s original shows, Antica and eOne invest in series and concept development and recording  the material.

The prodcos also invest in marketing. With more than 350,000 active podcasts in the iTunes store, promoting the network’s shows is key to its success. “We do targeted spends on social – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – and then we cross-promote [our shows] across the network, which is really no cost to us, but it is using up our inventory,” Coxe says. “Most people seem to agree that the best way to get someone to listen to a podcast is [by promoting it] on another podcast, because you’re already in that behaviour.”

While Antica and eOne are investing in content, with the long-term goal of signing development deals for their IP, the podcasts themselves also pull in revenues for the prodcos through ads on the network and from branded placements.

The network has long worked with advertisers, including grocery delivery service HelloFresh and Endy Mattresses. CPMs (the price of 1,000 advertising impressions on a webpage), can range from a few dollars to $50. It also offers discount codes to listeners for products offered by advertisers, and tracks conversions.

Studies have shown that podcast listeners tend to be younger, more educated, and affluent. “It’s an attractive demo and we’ve seen consistent take-up by advertisers on our network because we are converting for them on sales for the right products that millennials would want to buy,” says Coxe.

In a world where audiences are moving away from traditional distribution channels, but are just as hungry for media, Coxe believes he’s found the sweet spot with the network. “The best of our current podcasts take you inside a fully realized world, and therefore it’s worth your time,” he says. “And what’s great about it is, because we’re not spending $1 million on development, I don’t have to worry in the same way. The risks are lower to let someone have their own voice.”

A version of this article appears in the 2017 Winter issue of Playback.